Based on the belief that the traditions of those who live in the forests - predominantly tribals or Janjatis – are linked to Vedic traditions, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is engaged in historical research to study these customs. This is a part of a larger Sangh project to get ‘Indian historians to write Indian history based on Indian evidence to increase Indian self-respect’.
From Friday, the Sangh’s premier historical wing, Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana, commences a ‘chintan baithak’, brainstorming session, in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district to discuss these research issues.
Balmukund Pandey, organising secretary of ABISY, told HT, “There is a close link between Vedic traditions and janjati/adivasis traditions – of worshipping river, trees, and nature. They are the ancestors of the ‘civilized people’. These people destroyed nature and moved ahead, while Janjatis prayed to nature and were left behind.” The Sangh has worked extensively in tribal areas through its wing, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram.
In 1973, the Sangh set up the Baba Apte committee with the mandate to look at history through an Indian lens, which eventually led to the formation of the ABISY. “We realized history was all around us – in temples, in caves, in folk tales, in stories narrates to us by our grandmothers, in walls, in vedas, in shlokas, and the aim was to compile it,” explained Pandey. This would, in the RSS worldview, construct a ‘true Indian history’, rather than the ‘distorted history of either the British or communists’.
The second element of the current research areas is historiography, and ‘redefining history’ and the tradition of history-writing. Pandey said they disagreed with the division of history into ancient, medieval, modern period, and wanted to create a ‘unified, rather than divided’ history.
The third element is to use Puranic sources as a rich historical source. “We believe that Sanskrit texts and texts in local languages are best source, because they contain places, incidents, and people. We are creating an encyclopedia of all Puranas and indexing it,” argued Pandey. And the final element of the current program is to collect district histories, written by district historians based on local knowledge and languages.
AIBSY says that this new research agenda follows the successful completion of four other research projects in the past.
These included retracing the journey of Saraswati. “36 historians travelled through 4000 kilometers based on Vedic and Mahabharat evidence for 31 days in 1985, and retraced it,” said Pandey. The second was ‘countering’ the theory that Aryans were foreigners, and instead claiming that Aryans were from originally India who had gone out. The third was dating Mahabharata, Shankaracharya and Buddha – ABISY believes Buddha was actually born in 18th century BC and not 6th century BC. And the final element was to emphasise that the 1857 rebellion was not a Sepoy Mutiny, but First War of Independence.
When asked whether he expected support from the BJP government for their work, Pandey said, “We have not taken a single penny from the government and won’t ever take it. We have published 350 books, 2000 plus research papers, a journal, and have over 500 professors associated with us, and we run on voluntary contribution.”
Explaining their mode of functioning, Pandey said that the first element was to get historians, change their worldview, and ‘brainwash them’ to think about history through an Indian lens, ‘since they have been exposed to distortions’. The second was narrowing down on research projects; the third was recording and publication; and the fourth was building a syllabus ‘according to the Indian mind’. “If the government wants, they can create a syllabus based on our research. This will help remove our slavish mindset, and help build an Indian mind. But we are neither going to apply or ask them to do so. It is upto them.”